CLICK HERE to read Jeremiah 31.
Speaking of when the people repent and return to Him, the Lord continues saying that only when they choose to be His people of holiness is He free to be their God (verse 1). He is not going to force Himself on them, and will not give them what they do not want. He can only give them their promises if they choose them. He respects their agency, their ability to choose, and so if they want to choose destruction throughout mortality (“wilderness”), He will help deliver the destruction they prefer (verse 2). But that is not what He wants for them, and He is full of love for them and hopes they choose well (verse 3). He knows they will, in the end (verse 4).
In the latter-days, the Lord says the people of Israel will not be living in only a desert, but the land will flourish even in Samaria and fresh food will be plenty (verse 5). This has already become true in recent years, with irrigation and dammed rivers that have turned the desert green.
It is in this day, the Lord says, in the latter-days, that the priesthood (Mount Ephraim) prophets (“watchmen”) will call the people back to Him through ordinances in the temple (verse 6). By this the people will be rescued and restored to their promised blessings (verse 7). With great pains and effort they will be gathered (verse 8). They will return to Him through baptism, and be true to Him through covenant-keeping (verse 9) made available by temple ordinances through the true priesthood restored by the tribe of Ephraim.
The Lord urges all the people to hear and understand this, that He will not lose them and will herd them home again like a flock of sheep (verse 10). He has chosen this people, and by His atonement has paid the price for them (verse 11), and so they can prosper if they will live according to His plan for their happiness (verse 12). This will be better for them than their old choices of misery and bondage (verse 13):
I will turn their mourning into joy,
and will comfort them,
and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
The people will have plenty, overflowing with temporal blessings that provide for their families (verse 14), instead of mothers crying out because of famine leaving their children hungry (verse 15). This is a reflection of their spiritual restoration as well, that they will be restored to their physical land and spiritual blessings (verse 16). This is their hope (verse 17).
The Lord has heard the people complaining about their chastisement, crying out that it was hard for them, until they finally turned to Him and asked for help (verse 18). Soon as they did, He did respond to them and help lighten their load while they finished their consequences, and then ultimately delivered them from them (verse 19). Like a naughty child that the parent still loves, the people are still loved by Him (verse 20). A plan for mercy has been established for them, but only they can choose it (verse 21).
He wonders what takes them so long to choose it, because He knows that it is covenant-keeping that will set the people free (verse 23). They will be restored by temple covenants (verse 24), and it is their covenants that will give them strength and comfort (verse 25).
This is the testimony of Jeremiah, and what gives him hope (verse 26).
The Lord says that the people will be scattered (verse 27), but not forgotten – so that just as He carefully delivered the consequence they chose, so also will He carefully deliver them when their consequences are finished (verse 28). Their descendants will no longer be punished for the sins of their ancestors, not even by natural consequences playing out (verse 29). Each person will be held accountable only for their own choices, and receive the consequences – good or bad – for their own choices, behaviors, and interactions with others (verse 30).
This is the new covenant the Lord will establish with Israel and Judah (verse 31), different from the old Mosaic covenants the people have already broken (verse 32). Instead of an external law, like the tablets Moses received for the people, He will give the people an internal law through the fulfillment of the Savior’s atonement (verse 33). Instead of keeping an external law that is about doing, the Lord will let the people mature and keep an internal law that is about becoming (verse 34). Instead of showing obedience through constant ritual and doing physical things to physically remember Him, He will give them spiritual covenants by which the people show obedience through who they become and how they care for others. These will be the temple covenants and ordinances: to live as He lived, to be obedient to Him by not harming others, and to consecrate your life to the service and care of others (verse 35).
The people will give evidence of their holiness by how they care for others, and their failure to do so will show they are not of God (verse 36). He will discern their progress by how they give evidence of it (verse 37), and their evidence right now is that they are rejecting the true prophets and killing them instead of caring for them and heeding His counsel. This is why another kingdom will conquer theirs (verse 38), with the Lord judging against them to deliver the consequences they have chosen (verse 39), and all that is not holy will be removed from His place – even from the earth itself (verse 40).